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Toronto 5, Tampa Bay 3

9/24/2003

TORONTO (AP) -- Kelvim Escobar finished with a good one in his
final start of the season, possibly his last for the Blue Jays.

Escobar showed why he might be a sought after in the free-agent
market, tying a career-high with 10 strikeouts as Toronto beat the
Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5-3 Wednesday night.

Escobar (13-9) allowed two runs, eight hits and five walks in
seven innings, reaching double digits in strikeouts for the fifth
time in his career.

The 27-year-old right-hander, who has been in the Blue Jays
organization since he was 16, struck out seven in the first three
innings. After getting the last out in the seventh, he pumped his
first.

"It was an emotional start because I'm going to be a free agent
and I don't know what's going to happen," he said. "I've been
with this organization my whole career. I have some great memories
pitching in Toronto. It's a great city. I want to stay here. I
don't want to think it was my last start, but you never know."

Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi has said the Blue Jays
will try to re-sign Escobar, who wants a three-year deal, but it's
unclear if Toronto can afford him.

"I'm looking for three years guaranteed, but if I have to take
two, I'll take two," Escobar said. "They've always been my
organization. I'll do whatever it takes to stay here. Two years
would be good."

Escobar was thrilled to finish the year with 180 1-3 innings.

"I got to 180 innings. That was my goal," he said. "It's
important to show that you can pitch a lot of innings and stay
healthy."

Josh Phelps hit a go-ahead two-run double in the sixth inning
for the Blue Jays, who don't have any other established starters
besides ace Roy Halladay

"Everybody knows we need starting pitching. It would be nice to
hang on to Escobar," Phelps said. "It's just up to him whether he
wants to stay."

Julio Lugo and Aubrey Huff homered for the Devil Rays, who need
to win two of their remaining four games to avoid their third
straight 100-loss season. Tampa Bay has lost five of six.

After Lugo homered in the first, Escobar loaded the bases by
allowing a single and two walks, then struck out Marlon Anderson.

Escobar put two runners on in the second, but he struck out Huff
to end the threat. He also struck out Huff to end the fourth after
he allowed consecutive singles to Carl Crawford and Lugo.

"He really competed and got us through seven innings, which was
huge," Toronto manager Carlos Tosca said. "I'm hoping we have him
back."

Mike Bordick's RBI single in the second tied it at 1.

Tampa Bay's Toby Hall doubled in the sixth and came home on
Crawford's run-scoring double play.

Doug Waechter allowed walks to Reed Johnson and Carlos Delgado
in the sixth, and Phelps hit a two-out double for a 3-2 lead.

Joe Kennedy's bases-loaded walk to Vernon Wells scored Toronto's
fourth run. The fourth ball to Wells got away from Hall behind the
plate, allowing Orlando Hudson to score on the wild pitch. Reed
Johnson almost scored from first on the play because Hall didn't
know where the ball went, but Kennedy sprinted after it and made a
nice play to get the sliding Johnson at the plate.

Waechter (3-2) allowed five runs and five hits in six-plus
innings.

"Things didn't go my way toward the end," he said. "I was
leaving a few balls up, but I feel I ended the year on a strong
note."

Aquilino Lopez pitched three innings for his 14th save in 16
chances, allowing a ninth-inning homer to Huff.

Game notes
There weren't any ejections -- in the previous two games,
Toronto's starting pitchers were tossed. Blue Jays manager Carlos
Tosca said he was going talk to the umpires before the game to
avert additional problems. ... Johnson went 0-for-2 with two walks,
ending his 20-game hitting streak.